Kayfabe, Lies and Alibis: JJ Dillon Fan Fest Q&A

Dillon covers the Horsemen, Dirt Sheets, the Death of WCW and JCP and much more!

Presented by Highspots.com

Hosted by Mark Nulty

Taped at the Charlotte Fan Fest

Dillon plugs his book “Wrestlers are like Seagulls”, which came out just before this Q&A was filmed.

JJ explains that he has issues keeping focused while reading, which made his co-author Scott Teal invaluable since Dillon could never manage to organize and write a full book like this.

The reading issues has made Dillon miss out on Terry Funk, Ole Anderson and Dusty Rhodes’ books that he would otherwise would have loved to devour.

The “dirtsheets” as they were called back in the day are a valuable asset to the business. Dillon puts over Wade Keller, Dave Meltzer and Bruce Mitchell in particular.

With the long hours on the road, the sheets allowed the guys to get some entertainment, and filled them in on what other areas were doing in the era before the internet allowed for an easy transfer of information.

The Turner execs mettled in the wrestling business as soon as JCP sold out to them. The TV guys wanted big time matches to be on TV each week, which Dillon told them would burn out the talent and hurt PPV numbers. This logic ultimately led to Nitro being booked as it was and a business model that helped kill WCW.

Even the Turner office guys read the Wrestling Observer and took Dave’s thoughts to heart when assessing talent and booking.

Howard Finkel was assigned by Vince McMahon to read all the newsletters and listen to insider headlines to feed information back to Vince.

McMahon was enraged that Meltzer would reveal future results and booking plans. This led to Vince enlisting JJ to call Meltzer and try and convince him to not run such news.

The WWF altered their booking style to try and cope with Meltzer and others spoiling their plans.

The wrestling business had to adapt to the world changing. Old gimmicks like Nazis and evil, sneaky Japanese stars could not be translated into then modern ideas, such as Sgt. Slaughter being an Iraqi turncoat. Had the media not been on the ground covering the Iraqi war as it happened, the heat for doing such an angle would not have been nearly as bad as it was.

Vince’s angst towards Meltzer led to Vince going out of his way to attempt to get Dave fired from the newspaper he was writing for at the time.

McMahon gave Dillon permission to call Dave and feed him information, which skewed to McMahon’s worldview. All the other office employees and wrestlers were barred from reading his newsletter, under the threat of being fired.

Meltzer was told that Dillon buried him to his bosses, which could have gotten Dave fired. This led to Dave attacking Dillon in the newsletters. The rumors were untrue.

The plan for the WWF to control the narritive failed as Meltzer had many other sources in Titan Towers.

Dillon ultimately got screwed over by the newsletters as Dave wrote about Dillon having conversations with WCW about coming in as an office worker while still employed by the WWF. Dillon claims the talks never happened, but the “news” gave Vince the ammo to revoke a lucrative compensation package he was going to give Dillon, which had the clause that JJ could not work for WCW for a number of years.

JJ had worked for the WWF for over seven years when he chose to leave.

Jim Barnett, who had a lot of contacts in the business for decades, was working for the WWF during the expansion years until Jim mentioned one day that he missed some of his friends in Atlanta. Vince heard about it and fired him right off. Barnett was so distraught that he attempted to commit suicide.

Dillon was a Jersey boy who became a wrestling fan in his teens. He speaks fondly of Dr. Jerry Graham and his colorful persona.

Bruiser Brody was a straight shooter to promoters, This made them wary to use him because they knew Brody knew his value and would fight for his money.

The Horsemen were not a long term planned out angle. It came as a result of an impromptu promo and things just snowballed from there.

Ole Anderson did not fit in with the Horsemen as he was not the women chasing, heavy drinking, type of person. Lex Luger was brought in to set up Ole leaving the group to create another feud for the Horsemen to work.

Jerry Lawler was working in Florida, and dropped his Southern (Memphis) title to a local Florida heel, Kendo Nagasaki. This was to set up Nagasaki to come to Memphis for rematches. JJ was asked to cut promos from Florida to air in Memphis to plug the matches. Jerry Jarrett would not pay to fly Dillon in for the angle. The feud drew so well that Jarrett created “Kamala” to keep up the Dillon vs. Lawler angle. Dillon cut promos for Kamala, but since he was in a different state, he had never even seen the wrestler he was “managing” and cutting promos for.

WTBS airing wrestling nationwide helped to kill the territories because suddenly all the local promoters heard from their fans that they wanted to see Tommy Rich, Buzz Sawyer and others in their towns, not just the local stars.

JCP went under because the business expenses expanded to a point where it was not sustainable when the crowds dipped. Crockett could have possibly held on until things could have been corrected, but there was no guarantee.

Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard left the NWA largely for the financial possibilities the WWF offered.

Terry Funk was excellent at seeing wrestling business trends long before anyone else did.

The territories dying has caused the talent pool to dry up and now we have a WWE roster that is largely stale. Different places taught guys different styles and forced guys to develop their skills.

Modern workers largely focus too much on hot spots and stunts than on storytelling.

Wrestling has a major advantage over other sports as they have the power to determine the results.

Dillon was in his 40’s by the time he was able to work a match in MSG. Despite expanding the business at that point, McMahon did not inquire about signing him.

Eddie Graham was booking Dillon in 1984 and he knew Dillon wanted a chance to work MSG, so he arranged the deal as a favor to Dillon. JJ starts to break down as he tells this story. Vince Sr. was the one who brokered the deal with Graham, and he was dead from cancer within a month or two of sealing the deal. JJ may have been part of the last “special favor” Graham worked out before Sr. died and ended the WWF/Florida relationship once and for all.

Dave “It’s Still Real to Me, DAMN IT!” Willis pops up to ask about Vince Russo. Dillon lists Eric Bischoff, Brad Siegel and Russo as the three people in the business he really cannot stand. Russo and Bischoff set up WCW for failure, and Siegel was the Turner suit who let it all happen, even though he should have known the business was failing.

Johnny Ace is in the thankless position of being Vince McMahon’s ax man and talent relations manager. Ace gets all the heat for contracts and talent decisions that Vince actually makes.

Dick Murdoch was a phenomenal worker, who just had a habit of having too much fun in the ring and outside of the ring to be considered as NWA champion.

Dillon traveled to Amarillo and Florida several times as a talent because he loved working in those places, and he was able to freshen up by moving along. Working in Australia and Japan completed Dillon’s career goals. They were special because only the biggest of stars went to those areas when JJ was just a mark watching TV in his youth.

Final thoughts: A fairly dry effort from Dillon, who ate up a good chunk of the hour with the Meltzer issue, which I’d imagine very few people felt was relevant enough to spend so much time going over. Not exactly a revelatory effort here.


Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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